Category: comics

Noto Black Widow

Speaking of Phil Noto1, his new book Black Widow is definitely worth a look. He (and writer Nathan Edmondson) have created the all-too-rare female lead where her body is not the main focus of attention. She’s a ruthless, super capable super spy, and it’s all done without the need to show her in impossibly exploitative poses and scenes. Of the books I’ve read recently only Fraction’s Hawkeye and Gillen & McKelvie’s Young Avengers can lay similar claim.

Noto draws beautifully, particularly faces, his colours are gorgeous, and the use of drop focus and freeze frames is all great stuff. Meanwhile Edmondson makes Natasha herself the story, not her relationship to men. She’s running the show and the book is a breath of fresh air as a result.

  1. Yes, over a year later, which makes it a very tenuous ‘speaking of’, but better late than never? 

Comics & Variant Covers

I’ve recently started buying single issue comics again (as opposed to trade paperbacks), tempted back largely by following Merlin Mann’s relentless love of all things X.

I’m buying physical issues despite the temptation of Comixology, as I enjoy the form of a comic book: the cover, splash pages, page-turn-anticipation, cover, oh and the cover 1. I also worry about Comixology’s DRM lockdown. It’s strange and frustrating how ebooks/comics are stuck in the DRM world years after music escaped.

Monthly issues are a funny thing - once they’re gone, they’re gone. They’re like small pieces of art that exist in a temporal field that lasts only a few months 2. Which makes the weekly trip to the comic shop a fun adventure in spotting what’s new and grabbing it before it’s gone for good.

Once thing I’ve noticed since venturing back into Sydney CBD’s sole surviving comic store is the fantastic variant covers that are being created. It seems that most issues—or at least most issue of the big series—are coming out with limited edition variant covers, and they often are spectacular.

David Aja Astonishing X-Men #48 David Aja Astonishing X-Men #48 with text

David Aja’s Astonishing X-Men #48 variant

Making the covers limited are an extremely transparent sales & marketing ploy by the publishers, but that doesn’t take away from their artistic merit. There is some beautiful work on show.

The trouble is that buying the issues is impossible unless you like burning money. My shop sells the ‘limited limited’ covers for $50, the slighty-less-limited for $15, etc. They never make it to the shelves for the cover price of ~$5 3. This kind of policy has been the subject of some heated debate amongst the retail fraternity, and I guess it’s tough making a living selling comics these days.

The real shame is that there doesn’t even seem to be an online archive of the variants. Marvel’s offical artwork archive is nigh on impossible to navigate sensibly, and the various user generated comic database sites are woefully incomplete and disorganised.

Given a tiny percentage of (well off) readers can lay their hands on them, why not at least make the digital covers easily available?

As it stands, tumblr is easily the best way to find comics artwork. West Coast Avengers, and authors Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, and Kelly Sue DeConnick are all reliable sources of the good stuff.

  1. As a bonus, buying a real-world copy of some $3.99 books grants you a digital copy too. 

  2. I’ve always enjoyed magazines for the same reason: if you don’t buy it when it’s on the shelves, it very difficult to get it later. 

  3. There are some standard-variants that go for cover price, but the real standouts don’t 

DC Universe reboot

DC Comics are rebooting. Everything.

Their entire comic line will reset at Issue #1, from Batman to Superman and beyond. This is a great thing if you’ve lost track of continuity (and who hasn’t?), and a terrible thing given the continuity is what gives a lot of these comics their weight.

Amongst a web full of coverage, the Snarkmarket team have chipped in with a trifecta of thoughtful analysis.

Robin Sloan - The Cosmic Custodians:

Today, you don’t go work at Marvel and DC because of what they are; you go because of what they have. It’s almost like a natural resource. Superman and Batman are potent substances. They have this incredible innate energy, this incredible mythic density, built up over decades. They really are like petroleum-a bright eon of individual organic contributions all compressed into this powerful stuff that we can now burn for light, for entertainment, for money.

Today, this is really the only pitch that DC can make to a talented creator: Come, come, work for us. We’re the only ones with sweet Gotham crude.

Tim Carmody - The Cave, The Corps, The League:

Green Lantern is about will-the impossible will that allows you to believe you can harness that cosmic energy for your own purposes. Batman is about fear-the fear that allows his opponents to believe that he is more than just a man.

In this allegory, the authors who turned to indie creator-owned comics in the 1990s out of mistrust for the big legacy publishers are clearly Batman. And the ones who returned to reignite those same publishers a decade later (in some cases, it’s the same people) are the Green Lantern Corps. 

Gavin Craig - Hacking the story:

But rather than thinking of continuity as some sort of sacred history of tradition, let’s remember that it’s a technology. And like any technology, it might be most interesting once we start thinking about how it can be hacked.

Plus who can resist getting in at the ground floor with Batman #1.